For the second year in a row, Red Bank Catholic High School senior Catherine Curtin spent part of her summer with her peers – in Cuba.
“It was like we were going back to see old friends,” said Curtin, 17. “We picked up right where we left off.”
The trip was the second year of GUEST, the Girls Universal Empowerment Sports Tour – a program she designed in 2016 as a means of establishing friendships between American girls and their nearest island neighbors to the south.
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With the guidance of parents, Dan and Patricia, Curtin designed GUEST, a multi-year ambassadorship plan using volleyball as a means of sharing with girls in other countries. Her ultimate aim is to bring a small team of Cuban girls to the United States for some healthy volleyball competition.
Curtin said that in the past year, neither she nor the Cuban girls had learned much of the other’s language, but “because we had formed a friendship last year that carried over, I think love and friendship created a kind of a universal language.”
Volleyball rules are the same worldwide, which is one reason why Curtin said she chose the sport as her tool in bringing friendship. “I think it’s such a good opportunity to bond and share with other young girls. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we can communicate through a common love of the sport.”
Witnessing poverty, Curtin said her visits have taught her the lack of opportunity for young women in other countries.
“If I can reach someone through sport, I can impact them in other ways, too,” she said. “Sharing cultures is just another advantage that comes along with helping others.”